At the surface level, there seems to be a lot to like with Maikel Franco . He’s slated to open the year as the everyday third baseman hitting behind the likes of Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto . With guys getting on base frequently ahead of him, and Franco coming off a season in which he hit .270 with 22 home runs, it could be surprising that there isn’t much love in the fantasy community for the 26-year-old from the Dominican Republic. Furthermore, after posting a strikeout rate just under 17 percent back in 2016, Franco has been able to post a reduced rate in each of the past two seasons, including a career low 13.3 percent mark last season. His BABIP rebounded nicely following a down 2017 campaign, helping push that batting average back up to .270. However, for a multitude a reasons the overall outlook on Franco’s 2019 campaign is down compared to what his 2018 statistics say.

His hard contact rate placed him in just the 35th percentile of qualifying hitters last season and his 28.3 percent soft contact rate is astronomically low. In fact, should he have qualified last season, he would have had the highest soft contact rate in all of baseball. Yes, even lower than Billy Hamilton ! His batted profile isn’t conducive to a player to see an increase in his home run total this season, and that’s even if he gets a full season of playing time, which is another concern.

Of players with at least 300 at-bats last season to post a ground ball rate of at least 49 percent, a soft contact rate of at least 22 percent, and a hard contact rate north of 27 percent, Franco’s 22 home runs paced the pack last season. There were eight players to make the list following the above parameters, and they are as follows: Daniel Robertson , José Pirela , Eric Hosmer , Kevin Kiermaier , Jonathan Villar , Russell Martin , Willson Contreras and Franco. If you factor out Franco’s home run total, the average of the other guys that met the aforementioned parameters is a whopping 10.43 home runs. WOW. In 2017, following those same parameters, the five players averaged just 10.8 home runs, with the highest being 15. Other factors certainly go into it, but it’s worth noting that this particular combination of metrics don’t lend themselves to fruitful power numbers.

On top of this, Franco’s exit velocity dropped for the second straight season, and last year’s mark of 88.1 miles per hour was the lowest of his career. While this isn’t the most staggering Statcast metric of his, it’s worth noting, because his exit velocity beforehand wasn’t great, so any reduction there further cuts into his 2019 power profile. Additionally, and perhaps the biggest take away, is the fact that Franco went back to pummeling the baseball into the ground. His ground ball rate was inflated, and his average launch angle of 9.6 degrees was the lowest of his career, and over one full degree below his career average.

Franco may have hit .270 last season, but his xBA indicates that he was a .260 hitter. His career expected batting average of .256 is more indicative of the player that he is at this point in his career, but if the exit velocity and launch angle don’t see some increases following last season, it will be hard for Franco to best the 22 round-trippers he swatted last season.

If playing time wasn’t a concern, it would be easier to draft Franco in the later rounds, because the upside and potential are there. However, if the analytics don’t matchup and the production isn’t what the Philadelphia brass wants, Scott Kingery and other players are waiting in the wings. The playing time concern is real with Franco in 2019, and while most projection systems have him around 140 games of work, the veteran third baseman will have to earn every single one of those outings.

Despite occupying a starting spot in one of the better offenses in baseball, there are a lot of red flags surrounding Franco’s outlook for 2019.

Statistical Credits: